Mar 242016
 
Vikings Season Three

Showrunner Michael Hirst seems to have taken all of the names of historical figures from a couple of centuries and thrown them into a hat. Every season, he draws several names and writes a plot around them. It is entertaining, but we left accuracy town a long time ago. However, Vikings is a brilliant case study of a family of psychotic conquerors, and Season Three has enough betrayals to satisfy even the most discerning connoisseur. Read More…

Aug 272015
 
Vikings Season Two

Swiftly resolving the conflict between Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), the second season explores England as Ragnar comes into contact with Wessex, the most powerful English kingdom. At the same time, he also has to deal with repeated betrayals from his allies. Coming into his stride, Travis Fimmel creates a spellbinding if unlikeable alpha male. While Ragnar is fascinating to watch, it seems like showrunner Michael Hirst is just settling for a crowd-pleasing version of the Sopranos with boats and beards. Read More…

Jun 272013
 
Vikings Season One

The History Channel’s new show Vikings presents the exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel), who was the first Viking to raid England, discovering a wonderful place where the inhabitants conveniently store their silver and gold in remote buildings protected by unarmed men who pray to a dead god. One would think that Ragnar would return to a hero’s welcome, but Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) resents a rival and schemes against him. Haraldson is needed as a villain since without him, Ragnar would be a brave explorer who goes to other countries that never did him any wrong, and kills their soldiers, steals their valuables, and takes people away as slaves. While the series whitewashes the thuggish side of the Vikings, it does pay tribute to the bravery of men who sailed in unknown waters to find a new land, not knowing if there actually was a land to the west. The Vikings are contemptuous of the Christians because their God seems unable to protect them. The religious aspect is critical, since otherwise it is just another cable show about tough men who live by their own moral code but are essentially bandits, stealing from those too weak to defend themselves. While the cast, especially Fimmel, are sufficiently charismatic, showrunner Michael Hirst’s writing slips in the second half of the season, as he appears to recycle themes from his previous show The Tudors. Read More…

Mar 142013
 
Vikings

History Channel’s new series Vikings has just started, and it looks good so far. To be honest, it is worth watching just for the introduction of early navigation and shipbuilding techniques. The second episode shows the terror of being lost in the mist in the middle of the ocean with no idea of which direction is land, or if there even is land nearby. The lead character, Ragnar Lothbrok, is a famous Norse hero, and Travis Fimmel plays him as a visionary driven to find new lands and kill and loot their inhabitants. I have only seen two episodes but Gabriel Byrne’s Earl Haraldson is a deliciously paranoid and small-minded villain.
Following the surprisingly good Hatfields and McCoys miniseries in 2012, this is History’s first scripted series, making it a player in a crowded field that includes HBO, Starz, AMC, Showtime and the BBC. Nice to see some actual history on the History Channel, instead of the usual Pawn Stars, Ice Truckers and American Pickers.
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